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Peacekeeping police to head for Liberia on mission

Updated: 2013-09-29 23:48
By Zhou Huiying in Harbin ( China Daily)

China's first group of riot police assigned to Africa as peacekeepers was set to depart from Beijing on Monday morning after months of training.

An advance team of 15 will arrive first in the Republic of Liberia, followed by another 125 police officers on Oct 21. The mission will last eight months.

The unit is being deployed to Liberia to maintain public security, as well as to protect United Nations staff and facilities.

Most members were chosen from the 1,350 applicants from Heilongjiang Provincial Public Security Frontier Corps.

Starting April 11, candidates began 100 days of high-intensity physical and mental training at the China Peacekeeping Police Training Base in Langfang, Hebei province.

"All 140 are experts in communications, field medicine, foreign languages, specialty construction, driving and maintenance," team leader Guo Xiangdong said. "They have stood the test and will leave for Africa as representatives of the Chinese police."

Teng Lihui, 30, of Jiayin Public Security Frontier Corps, said he signed up as soon as he heard about the selection process — despite the imminent arrival of his son.

"I left home for training in March, and my wife gave birth on April 16," he said. "My wife gave me a lot of support but I felt so sorry I couldn't be with her."

The team heading for Liberia includes seven women, the youngest of whom is just 23. They include two trained nurses and a translator.

"During training, the drill master talked in detail about the conditions in Liberia," officer Zhao Yingying said. "We all know we'll face tough conditions, loneliness and homesickness."

She said she had postponed her wedding to be able to take part in the peacekeeping mission.

"My boyfriend couldn't understand at first, but when I told him that it was my dream and a good experience, he began to accept the decision," Zhao said. "However, my safety is still his greatest concern."

After months of training, officers also had to take an exam set by the UN in July, which they passed with flying colors.

Qader Alhabahbeh, with the UN's Department of Peacekeeping Operations, hailed them as "the best team of peacekeepers I have ever tested".

China has sent 1,786 police officers as peacekeepers to eight countries: East Timor, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sudan, Haiti, Liberia and South Sudan, according to the Ministry of Public Security.

Highly trained riot police have only previously been sent to Haiti.

"We'll face many difficulties. Both the natural condition and security are terrible in Liberia," team leader Guo said. "The mosquitoes can take lives and even the water is poisonous. Ensuring the safety of others and ourselves is a great challenge for each of us."

A ship carrying 800 metric tons of cargo for the team left from Tianjin on Sept 5 and is expected to arrive at Liberia in mid-October.

The shipment includes military equipment, such as armored vehicles, light machine guns and some police equipment, as well as daily supplies, such as alternators, household appliances, vegetable seeds and even sewing kits.

"The UN will provide meat for us, but we have to prepare vegetables all by ourselves," deputy team leader Gai Lixin said. "It will cause great harm for people to go without vegetables for a long time. In this special environment, the vegetable patch will be as important as the training ground."

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